Vatican City, Sep 7, 2005 (CNA) - On his Wednesday General Audience, held this morning in St. Peter's Square in the presence of 20,000 people, Pope Benedict encouraged the faithful to “continually model our image on that of the Son of God."
He based his reflection on the canticle contained in the first chapter of St. Paul's Letter to the Colossians, where Christ is presented as "the image of the invisible God."
St. Paul, the Pope explained, applies the Greek term "eikon" (icon or image) both to Christ, "Who is the perfect icon of God," and to man, who nonetheless has "'exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man.' ... We must, therefore, continually model our image on that of the Son of God."
St. Paul, the Pope went on, then "passes from the world of the creation to that of history. Christ is 'the head of the body, of the Church,' and He is so through His incarnation. In fact, He entered the human community to support it and form it into a 'body,' in other words into a harmonious and fruitful unity. The consistency and growth of humanity have their root in Christ, the vital pivot, the 'beginning'."
The canticle closes by celebrating the "'fullness' ... that Christ possesses as a gift of love from God. This is the fullness of the divinity which irradiates both in the universe and in humanity, becoming a source of peace, of unity, and of perfect harmony. This 'reconciliation,' and 'pacification' is achieved through 'the blood of His cross,' by which we are justified and sanctified."
The Holy Father concluded: "In spilling His blood and giving Himself, Christ spread peace which, in biblical language, is a blend of messianic goodness and salvific plenitude extended to all creation. The canticle closes, then, with a luminous horizon of reconciliation, unity, harmony and peace, over which the figure of its Architect, Christ, solemnly rises."
After the audience, Benedict XVI greeted pilgrims in various languages and soon afterwards returned by helicopter to his summer residence in the apostolic palace of Castelgandolfo.
Vatican City, Sep 7, 2005 (CNA) - The fifteenth economic forum promoted by the Study Institute for Eastern Europe opens this evening in Krynica, Poland, on the theme "European Challenges: the model and frontiers of Europe."
The forum is being attended by numerous intellectuals, scientists, businessmen, politicians, economists, representatives from the world of communications and from non-governmental organizations from various European, Asian and American countries.
Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, president of the Pontifical Council "Justice and Peace," will address the opening greeting to participants, among them Lech Walesa, former prime minister of Poland, and Yuliya Tymoshenko, Mikulas Dzurinda and Marek Belka, prime ministers respectively of Ukraine, Slovakia and Poland. Cardinal Martino is also scheduled to participate in the ensuing debate on the theme: "Christian ethics and the spirit of post- industrial capitalism."
Washington D.C., Sep 7, 2005 (CNA) - In a gathering with priests of the Archdiocese of Washington DC, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick announced that Pope Benedict XVI has asked him to remain Archbishop of Washington despite the 75-year old’s offer of retirement.
Under Canon Law, bishops are required to submit resignations upon turning 75, but the Vatican retains power to accept or deny the bids after examining individual circumstances.
“I accept the Holy Father’s decision with gratitude and confidence,” Cardinal McCarrick said yesterday. “The confidence is based on the fact that I can count on the help of God for the grace to continue to serve the people of the Archdiocese whom the Lord loves so much. The gratitude comes from the privilege of working my brother bishops and priests, deacons and religious, whose generosity and zeal I have already experienced over the last four and a half years.”
According to the Archdiocese, the Cardinal was informed of the Vatican’s decision by way of a letter from the Apostolic Nuncio. He is expected to remain in his post for another two years or so.
Cardinal McCarrick, who has been a priest for 48 years and a bishop for 28, was appointed to the Archdiocese of Washington in 2001. He succeeded Cardinal James Hickey.
Sacramento, Calif., Sep 7, 2005 (CNA) - Last evening, the California state legislature became the first legislative body in the U.S. to approve a bill allowing for same-sex marriage--a move that has shocked many religious and pro-family groups around the state.
The bill, AB 849, which passed the state Senate last week, still has yet to be approved by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, which has watchers on both sides of the gay-marriage debate waiting with baited breath.
Karen England, of the Capital Resource Institute said that, "This is a sad day for California families because the very foundation of the family is being redefined and destroyed…The legislature, by callously disregarding their constituents, are proving that they are more concerned about embracing a group of adults, identified only by their sexual behavior, than promoting healthy families for the sake of our children."
Last week, the Campaign for Children and Families pointed out that the bill’s passage effectively negates Proposition 22, which passed with 61% of the statewide vote in 2000. That proposition said that “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."
Many have pointed out that the California State Constitution prohibits lawmakers from repealing or amending voter-approved initiatives.
A group of gay rights supporters erupted into cheers in the assembly gallery last night when the vote passed 41-35 in favor of the bill.
Bill May, chairman of the group Catholics for the Common Good decried the passage saying, "Last night, the California Assembly turned its back on California's children and future generations by passing special interest legislation attempting to redefine marriage as a relationship for the benefit of consenting adults rather than an institution that guarantees children a mother and a father for their foundation on life,"
"They also”, he said, “turned their back on the will of California voters who passed Prop 22, 'The Defense of Marriage Act,' with 61% of the vote in 2000."
AB 849 failed passage in the State Assembly in June, but supporters vowed to see the bill back on the floor as soon as possible.
Currently, a state appeals court is considering arguments from a lower court ruling which overturned California laws banning same-sex marriage.
Likewise, many pro-family groups are working on initiatives for the 2006 state ballot which would amend the state constitution to allow only for marriage between a man and a woman.
Washington D.C., Sep 7, 2005 (CNA) - A recent Gallup poll showed that Americans are more interested in Supreme Court Chief Justice nominee John Robert’s stance on abortion than in any other issue, a finding which Fr. Frank Pavone, head of Priests for Life does not find surprising.
"This is not surprising,” said Fr. Pavone in a statement yesterday, “in view of the fact that the number of voters for whom abortion is a deciding factor has been increasing in recent elections.”
"Many of these voters elected President Bush precisely because they knew he would have an opportunity to nominate the kind of Supreme Court Justices they want to have. Now they want to know how the man the President selected feels about an issue important to them," he said.
The poll showed that the abortion issue represented 28% of people’s concerns--above only about a 6% margin for all other issues.
In his statement, Fr. Pavone pointed out that "the so-called 'right to abortion' is nowhere in the Constitution, and unless a judge wants to rewrite that document, he will not invent such a right."
President Bush decided Monday to nominate Roberts, who was originally tapped to fill the shoes of retiring justice Sandra Day O’Connor, for the position of the highest judge in the nation. The announcement followed Saturday’s death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
Roberts has received what many see as undue scrutiny for his Catholic faith but has not publicly expressed his personal views on abortion.
Senate confirmation hearings for Roberts are scheduled to begin Monday.
Tucson, Ariz., Sep 7, 2005 (CNA) - The Diocese of Tucson plans to incorporate its 74 parishes and missions as independent nonprofit corporations by April.
The move is part of the diocese’s bankruptcy plan that was approved by federal bankruptcy Judge James Marlar this summer. It would protect parishes from having to pay diocesan debt or from being sold to pay off settlements in sexual-abuse cases.
Incorporating the parish, which simply involves registering the name of the entity with the state as a public person, is actually closer to diocesan organization stipulated in canon law.
"We will now recognize in civil law what has been in canon law from the beginning — that parishes are separate entities," parish incorporation committee member Bob Scala told Associated Press.
Bishop Robert Vasa of Baker, which separately incorporated 60 parishes and missions in 2002, concurred.
"Making them individual corporations gives them a structure that's external and legal and much closer to the canonical world," the canon lawyer was quoted as saying.
Six other U.S. dioceses have reportedly incorporated their parishes, including New York, Milwaukee, Rhode Island, Davenport, Stockton and Lincoln.
The Diocese of Tucson had filed for bankruptcy protection last year when faced with potentially expensive lawsuits alleging sexual abuse of children by priests.
Bay St. Louis, Miss., Sep 7, 2005 (CNA) - Religious communities of consecrated men and women have had to leave their missions in the Gulf Coast region and move to higher ground. Hurricane Katrina pummeled the region last week, destroying their homes, retreat centers and other institutions.
The Society of Divine Word suffered that fate in Bay St. Louis, Miss., where their provincial headquarters, retreat center and retirement home were located. Everything was destroyed, and the missionary order of priests set up a temporary home at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Lafayette, reported the Associated Press. Thankfully, they moved their elderly out of the retirement home to parishes in the unaffected areas of Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, before the storm hit.
Bishop-emeritus Gerard Frey of Lafayette, who had retired to a family home in Bay St. Louis, evacuated to a diocesan retirement home in St. Martinville. His family home was reportedly destroyed by the storm after he evacuated.
Religious orders formerly stationed in New Orleans have also moved to parishes throughout the region though officials are not sure how many or where each have gone, reported the AP.
Given the extensive damages, these religious communities, which are financially independent of dioceses, face massive restoration costs as well. None as of yet have communicated how or where they will rebuild once the clean up is over.
Waterville, Maine, Sep 7, 2005 (CNA) - Nathan March is part of the largest class of seminarians in the Maine since 1995. He and four others expect be ordained for the Diocese of Portland in just two short years, reports the Associated Press. Another three ordinations are slated for the following year.
Like elsewhere in the United States, the number of priests has been dwindling for years. Currently, 95 priests serve Maine’s 234,000 Catholics, and their numbers are expected to drop further in the next five years.
But young men who are heeding the call to the priesthood, like March, are signs of hope for Catholics in the eastern state. Currently, there are 11 seminarians in Maine, ranging in age from 26 to 52.
Prior to entering the seminary, March was earning more than $60,000 a year as an electrical engineer and living in Portland's snappy West End.
But he left all that when he had a keen sense that God was calling him to the priesthood, he told the AP. Despite the meager pay of $25,000 per year and the sex-abuse scandal, the 30-year-old said he could not deny the attraction of giving his life to the Church as a Priest.
March didn’t consider himself religious growing up, but his interest in the faith was peaked when a high school teacher spoke about the influential role his Catholic faith in his life, he told the AP. He then read the autobiography of Thomas Merton and by the end of it had lived a conversion.
His faith grew during college and his professional life, but he wavered about whether to answer God’s call to the priesthood. He even lived in a monastery for three months before making his final decision. March will now begin his fourth year of his five-year program at The Catholic University of America in Washington.
Fr. Frank Murray, who heads the seminarian program for the Diocese of Portland, came to the priesthood in a roundabout way as well. Before being ordained a priest 24 years ago, he was a legislator and a high school math teacher.
Ankara, Turkey, Sep 7, 2005 (CNA) - Muslim organizers of an inter-religious symposium in Antioch, Turkey, have expressed their intention to invite Pope Benedict XVI to the gathering later this month, reported AsiaNews.
The Nuncio of Ankara, Edmond Farhat, has said he supports the presence of the Pope in Turkey for the meeting, Sept. 25-30.
The symposium, titled “Meeting of civilizations”, is reportedly the first such gathering planned by Muslims.
Prefect Abdulkadir Sari, the mayor of Antioch, and Muslim leaders have been promoting the initiative, which aims to boost peace and dialogue between civilizations and religions. Organizers expect 170 participants.
Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the Turkish Islamic Party has also expressed his support for the symposium, saying that Hatay is “an important example” for Europe.
Antioch is the capital city of the southern Turkish region of Hatay, where Islam, Christianity and Judaism coexist peacefully.
UNESCO is considering recognizing Hatay as a “Region of dialogue.”
Madrid, Spain, Sep 7, 2005 (CNA) - Weeks before it hits bookstores, the Spanish translation of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church has already become a best-seller in Spain. The Bishops’ Conference in that country reports that 20,000 copies have already been ordered.
“We think the first copies of the Compendium will be ready by the beginning of fall. The good news is that there are already more than 20,000 orders for the publication,” Juan Ignacio Rodriguez, director of the Secretariat of the Bishop’s Subcommittee on Catechesis, told Europa Press.
Rodriguez said the Compendium “will provide a very important service to catechesis in the world.” Likewise, he pointed out that the text is divided into four parts in order to make it more attractive and easier to read.
The Compendium was presented on June 28 in Rome and summarizes in 150 pages the fundamental truths of the faith, the liturgy, morality and Catholic prayer, using as a basis the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published in 1992 and available in more than 60 languages. The Libreria Editrice Vaticana is publishing the new text, but translations will be the task of the different bishops’ conferences.
As an example, Rodriguez explained, “a question such as, ‘What is God’s plan for mankind’ is faithfully answered in ten lines in the Compendium while the Catechism addresses it in 25 points.”
Pope Benedict has called the Compendium an “instrument” with which the Holy See has sought to respond to the demand for a synthesis of the Catechism in which “all of the essential and fundamental elements of the Catholic faith and morality” would be included.
During World Youth Day in Cologne, the Holy Father reminded young people that the Compendium would be fundamental, and he encouraged them to study it.
, Sep 7, 2005 (CNA) - In order to mark Brazil’s Independence Day on September 7, the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil is releasing a statement calling for “radical reform of the current political system.”
The bishops point out that it is not possible “to let this moment pass without carrying out profound political reform” in response to the widespread denouncing of corruption and the growing indignation over the violation of fundamental values of Brazilian society.
In their statement, the bishops call for greater fidelity to one’s party, improvements in democratic institutions and the promotion of greater participation in democracy.
The bishops noted that “the experience of popular participation in politics—through social movements, trade unions, social ministry and political parties—signifies progress and an historical patrimony of the Brazilian people which cannot nor should not be lost because of the sinister actions of politicians who seek power and personal advantage at whatever cost.”
The statement encourages all Christians to become involved in the world of politics,” reminding them that “it is worth it to give oneself for a cause that surpasses us; politics can be a way of exercising a greater love.”
The people of Brazil have shown amazing resilience to overcome problems throughout the country’s history, the bishops noted, and thus the current political crisis could be an occasion for the country’s democratic institutions to mature, to become more committed to truth, and to strive for a more just, united and free Brazil, where “justice and peace embrace.”
Madrid, Spain, Sep 7, 2005 (CNA) - A judge in the Spanish city of Burgos has questioned the constitutionality of a request by two lesbians to contract marriage, arguing that the heterosexuality of the couple is an implicit requirement in Article 32 of the country’s Constitution.
Judge Maria Luis Miranda became the third judge in Spain to challenge the constitutionality of Spain’s gay marriage law that was passed in June. Spain’s Constitution states that “man and woman have the right to contract marriage with full juridical equality.”
Miranda said that with the new law on gay marriage, which states, “Marriage shall have the same requirements and effects when both parties of the same or of different sex,” the meaning of the Constitution may be violated, as “heterosexuality is the substantial and identifying element of the institution of marriage.”
She noted that of the articles of the Constitution that refer to rights and liberties, only Article 32 “specifies sexual diversity—male and female—and thus the aforementioned article only guarantees the fundamental right to contract marriage to persons of the opposite sex,” although it does not prevent lawmakers from granting legal status to other types of unions between persons of the same sex.
Liberal lawmakers have begun calling on the government to punish judges who refuse to apply the law on gay “marriage.”